South African soccer fans still have reason to follow the Switchbacks FC.
Though the Colorado Springs-based United Soccer League Championship lost its South African coach when Alan Koch resigned Saturday, it will have one of the country’s more popular players on roster as George Lebese’s return was announced Wednesday.
"I'm very excited for yet another opportunity with the Switchbacks," Lebese said in a team release. "A great challenge lies ahead on the 2021 season with a wonderful stadium downtown. I'm looking forward to working hard with the group and making the fans proud."
When Lebese’s original signing was announced ahead of the 2020 season, fans of his work with Kaizer Chiefs, one of South Africa’s most popular clubs, flooded Switchbacks FC’s social media pages. They’ll have another chance to do so this season with the winger back in the black and blue after scoring two goals and adding an assist in 14 starts during last year’s 16-game season.
"George meant a lot to the club this year. While he had some big moments on the field, he also brought tremendous value to the locker room," Switchbacks general manager Brian Crookham said. "Retaining him allows us to build around his experience as we put the finishing touches on a roster that we believe will fight for a playoff spot from day one."
Lebese’s return makes five players announced as returning from last year’s team, joining Aidan Daniels, Rony Argueta, Sean Melvin and Andre Lewis. It’s six players if Steven Echevarria, who trained with the club last season but was not officially on the roster, counts. Echevarria was announced as the team’s first newcomer Monday.
"We are excited to bring Steven on to the 2021 roster. During his extended trial period he demonstrated his quality on the field and, importantly, was an immediate fit into the culture of the group," Crookham said. "Steven should immediately challenge for time in what is a talented midfield group."
With the Switchbacks FC roster standing at six, the group features two Americans (Argueta and Echevarria), two Canadians (Melvin and Daniels), one Jamaican (Lewis) and one very popular South African in Lebese.